We all know that the holidays aren’t a joyful time for everyone. For many, this time of year brings up feelings of intense sadness and loneliness. Nowhere is this truer than for those incarcerated and their loved ones. Last year was especially hard for me, as I’d lost my communication privileges over a trumped-up violation (which was summarily dismissed, to no one’s surprise), and for the first time in my life I was unable to speak with my family on Christmas Day. But as difficult as that was for me, I can only imagine how incredibly devastating it is for those individuals with families.
Aside from the practical considerations that many families live too far away from prisons to be able to visit, the impact on inmates who can’t contribute to their children’s joy over the holidays can be shattering to everyone involved. And while none of us want to suggest that our holiday focus should be on material goods, the fact is that a gift to a child from an incarcerated parent can mean the world. Those left behind to care for children typically face serious economic burdens when a loved one is imprisoned, which means that they often have to make the very real decision between buying Christmas gifts, and keeping the heat on.
When 1 in 14 children in the United States has a parent who is incarcerated, we’re talking about millions of children for whom the holidays hold additional stigma. Children whose parents are incarcerated are among our most vulnerable; many will experience serious negative impacts throughout their lives. On top of every day struggles with feelings of abandonment and loneliness, the holiday season emphasizes the importance of being with family- something they may not be able to do.
For the cost of a few lattes, you can, quite literally, help change the course of a child’s life. There is nothing more important to the long-term welfare of these children than to let them know that they are loved. That no matter what their circumstances, what their parents may or may not have done, that they matter, that society cares what happens to them.
Programs exist all across the country to help deliver Christmas gifts to the children on behalf of their incarcerated parents. And so I’d like to urge everyone out there to consider donating to any one of the organizations out there helping to deliver a message of love and hope to the children of prisoners.